Emergency service PTSD

Emergency Service PTSD

Not All wounds bleed.

It takes a different breed of person to be a volunteer firefighter. The time commitment in non-emergency operations alone is tremendous; In fact, Responding to calls makes up a very small percentage of one’s volunteer time.

Sadly, It is this small window of the hours logged that can have the most detrimental impact on a firefighter’s well being. Of course, there are the obvious physical dangers in firefighting; running into a burning building is serious business that’s for sure. Even though I was well aware of the potential physical danger, I was oblivious to the silent injury rarely discussed; the mental injuries I call emergency service PTSD.

This, not so well known injury that some firefighters are impacted by is a debilitating injury known as  Post Traumatic-Stress disorder (PTSD) A tragic consequence of helping one’s community; unfortunately for some, It can end up being their ultimate sacrifice.

the notion that “a” single traumatic event is a must when diagnosing PTSD.

It’s quite understandable, we, those in the emergency services, see things that no human should ever have to see. However, someone has to step forward and do it. While this may be true, all these brave souls can hope for is that they get to the end of their service relatively unscathed. But for those not so lucky, It can be heartbreaking, mind-numbing and something that keeps them up at night.

Great Podcast recommendation: Bunker Gear For The Brain

I am by no means an expert on trauma and PTSD, however, I live it every day and as a result, my path to my mental health injury was likely not incident-specific.

20 former military and emergency services tell their story, that of their struggle with PTSD. Pick up your copy below.

Therefore, I tend to believe that there may be room to include emergency service PTSD in a category that reflects the damage inflicted; damage that comes as a result of being witness to multiple critical incidents. Exposure over an extended period of time doesn’t seem to fit the criteria the DSM-5 Diagnostic and Statistics Manual is looking for.

The American Psychiatric Association defines post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) as a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist attack, war/combat, rape or other personal violent assaults.

Think you might have PTSD? GO HERE.

EMERGENCY SERVICE PTSD

Because EMS workers tend to have prolonged and repetitive exposure, the notion that “a” single traumatic event is a must when diagnosing PTSD, may not do these brave souls justice. In fact, it may leave a portion of the traumatized diagnosed because it may be hard to discern that one particular incident.

Like what you are reading? Try PTSD and It’s Startle Response

From my own experience, those accumulated scenes can play out in nightmares that are not incident-specific and are not recalled with any real regularity. Sometimes I awake feeling like I just re-lived a fire service memory in real life. I can’t recall the dream but I know the numbing angst of PTSD well.

I truly believe that emergency service PTSD could well be a subcategory of the original definition.

Recently, I have learned that I am not the only firefighter who is haunted by their traumatic experiences in this way. Other firefighters have told me that they have similar experiences. Many describe their symptoms as accumulative and can not nail it down to just one event.

They also report creating emergencies in their heads as they navigate throughout their day. For example, speeders on the highway tend to piss us off. Many EMS workers hate to see people speed because they are well aware of the consequences of this behaviour. All they can think about is the potential situation the speeder is putting them in. “Jerk is going to kill someone and I’m going to be forced to help.”

EMERGENCY SERVICE PTSD

I truly believe that emergency service PTSD could well be a subcategory of the original definition. We relive our most horrific incidents directly or indirectly ( the speeder scenario). We don’t suffer from “a” specific trauma, we dream and replay many incidents we tried to fix. These incidents impact us sometimes moment by moment as we pretend they don’t exist.

“Not All wounds bleed”

I want to take the time to thank everyone in the emergency service community who risks their mental health with every call to action. From firefighters, paramedics, police to dispatches, nurses and doctors….. Thank you!

If you are suffering from PTSD or another mental illness, please reach out. I thank you for your service and you are still worthy and mean something more people than you know.

If you are struggling please go here: Crisis Services Canada

Want help fund my book? donate: GOFundMe – The Road To Mental Wellness – The book

You may also enjoy: The Mental Health Work Injury Called PTSD

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Lt. John

The Mental Health Work Injury

As I rise this morning and prep my morning coffee, I began to hear sirens off in the distance; lots of them. They are fire trucks. After fifteen years in the fire service, they are unmistakable to these veterans’ ears. It rattles me, after all, it is where the mental health work injury, PTSD came from.

At one time, hearing them responding to chaos would produce a flow of adrenaline and kick my passion for helping others into high gear. Now, they are replaced with fear, angst and a numbing dread. All produced by PTSD. Often times, it sends me into a mental health crisis and holds me captive for the remainder of the day. For coping strategies for PTSD go here:

PTSD ASSOCIATION OF CANADA 

The sounds of sirens cutting through the silence of the early morning air, evoke in me such a range of emotions. Not only does it produce feelings of body numbing, anxiety, racing thoughts and fear, it also, makes me very angry, sad and lost. Perhaps the hardest feeling of all is the feeling of abandoned by those whom I believed to be my brothers and sisters of the service. The sound of sirens is an instant reminder of the sacrifices I made, the time lost with family, and the mental work-related injury.

” We must fight for our wellness.”

Moreover, they are an instant, PTSD triggering reminder that I have essentially been left behind. So, I am angry on two fronts. Firstly, this intense feeling of being forgotten, and I am pissed because I love the fire service; it’s in my blood and shall always be woven into the fabric of my being. Having this anger in my heart kills me because I knew that when those bay doors closed behind me for the last time; I knew that it was indeed the end. I am now a mere shadow of my former self and a distant memory by those I battled the beast with.

The mental health work injury called PTSD has destroyed millions and disrupted the lives of those who have been touched by its symptoms. Yet, like all forms of mental illness, it goes unrecognized as a legitimate work-related injury.

Check out our MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES PAGE

I ask you, how is it different from any other injury? Its constant pain, its, in my case, injured me to the degree that I am not able to work and is managed by health care professionals. IN addition, it also requires accommodation, symptom management.

Furthermore, it requires one to learn how to adapt their life to move on a passion they once were able to do with ease. Now replace mental illness with any physical injury; broken back, head injury etc. Now apply the requirements above to these physical injuries; symptom management, constant pain…. Again, I ask you, How are they different from any other injury? THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE. Wondering if you

Might have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD?) check here, Signs and symptoms of PTSD.


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“I feel like a discarded garden, left to wither and die”.

You may also enjoy: PTSD: The Impact Of Stigma On Firefighters

Please note that if you think you may have PTSD, please contact your health care provider and talk to them. I highly recommend you request a referral to your mental health services.

There are also resources out there to help, organizations like Sick Not Weak, a non-profit dedicated to supporting persons with mental illness.

You may also enjoy: Spontaneous Mental Combustion


Contact me on my Facebook page: facebook.com/TRTMW

 

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